Now to a key element of all versions of the story, the role, character and women who have played Lisbeth Salander. The different incarnations of Lisbeth Salander were always going to divide lovers of the book and films, because it’s a very fragile subject – who deserves to wear those tattoos?
Ever since Noomi Rapace’s performance graced the international stage, almost everyone in the entire world has praised her for her steeliness and unflinching portrait of a woman who’s been dumped by society all too many times and despite it overcome the odds and lived to tell the tales. Time for something a little controversial, as I’m going against the grain Rooney Mara gave the definitive Lisbeth Salander performance. There I’ve said it.
The biggest overriding problem I had with the Swedish version is the scriptwriter/director Oplev didn’t give Salander enough screen time – she felt like a supporting character rather than a leading lady. The only scenes we had of Salander in the original Swedish films were the vile scenes of her getting raped by Bjurman and then quickly moving onto the investigation. I was never able to emotionally connect with Rapace’s version of Salander compared to the book, nor Mara’s performance.
Zaillian included Polmgren (Salander’s guardian before he suffered a stroke and she was transferred to the evil Bjurman) and how important he was to Lisabeth. He was only man her in life ( before Blomkvist) who respected Lisbeth’s privacy and who Lisbeth respected enormously, yet he wouldn’t be afraid to give her a stern telling off. The scenes with Salander and Polmgren have incredibly touching because it gave us the chance to experience Lisbeth’s vulnerability (all of which is included in the book but the Swedish version tends to ignore).
Marawins for me because she’s able to expresses Salander’s humanity and she’s capable of trusting people and, and may even love someone -Blomkvist but isn’t afraid to show it. Mara also, looks more in tune with Larsson’s descriptions of Salander – permanently anorexic (because she can’t put on weight) and looking like a teenage boy. This is why I enjoyed Fincher’s ending more as it was more rounded and satisfying than Oplev’s – and it’s the ending taken from the book.
Important Spoiler for the latest film adaptation ahead
An example in the new film that highlights my above point is in a scene wher e Lisbeth has restored some faith in male community, she buys Blomkvist a Christmas present, and as she is about to deliver the present to him, she spots Blomkvist with Berger – looking like a loving couple walking down the street – she suddenly feels like an outsider and doesn’t want anything to do with him ever again. At this point you see the true vulnerability of the character and that she does have emotions and isn’t as hard as those pins in her face.
There were many other little changes that define these films differently. The American version doesn’t mention Salander’s mother because she died a few years before but they do mention Salander’s father who features prominently in The Girl Who Played With Fire.
The American’s took out the section with Blomkvist going to prison, which the Swedish included, and just give Blomkvist a financial fine. The prison section is in the book, but it’s in the mid section, as Blomkvist is becoming more obsessed with the case. Again, it’s one of those creative decisions that are made to keep in tune with the rest of the story, which I believe the American’s got right.
I understand that it is important to look and watch films on their own terms, but when you have two different adaptations of the book, it’s impossible not to compare them both. It’s easy for the general movie-going public to assume that Hollywood is going to flush it down the toilet when they get the chance. But they hired the right scriptwriter, director and cast to get the job done.
There are some merits to Oplev’s version such as Michael Nyqvist’s performance as Blomkvist, but I was never convinced by that adaptation – this has nothing to do subtitles! I believe David Fincher’s version of Setig Larsson novel is the most faithful adaptation and manages to be a coherent and exhilarating two and a half hours. It was the adaptation I was hoping for after the disappointment of Oplev’s version in 2010.
However, don’t take my word for it; read the book, watch the films and tell me what you think. I know my opinion will be questioned, argued about and discredited (and that’s just in the S 22 office) let alone by members on the internet, but I feel I’ve given both films a fair assessment and hoped to have settled this long-suffering argument.